________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 22. . . .February 12, 2010


The Animals' Day: An Island Alphabet.

Barbara W. Klunder.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2009.
60 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-904-7.

Subject Headings:
Animals-Ontario-Toronto Islands-Juvenile Fiction.
Toronto Islands (Ont.)-Juvenile Fiction.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet books.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

** /4



The Cardinal chooses a cool calm cruise in a canoe in the cove, escaping from the crashing chaos of that crazy ant circus.

Soon enough though, the jarring noise of jets landing at the unwanted Island airport nearby, and the jazzy notes and jabbering of the jays jerk the animals back to the hot summer day.

While they wait for evening, some animals decide to imitate the naughty naturists, those non-conforming types who wear no clothes. They nap or read their newspaper on the Island's nude beach. Animals, after all, never wear clothes on normal occasions.

Animals' Day is set on the Island located just south of Toronto and a popular place for tourists and Torontonians to spend a summer day. The Island also has a residential area which contains two hundred and fifty cottages. Apart from being a home to "nearly one thousand, including pets," the Island harbors many wild animals.

internal art     In Klunder's text, once a year the animals living on the Island dress up like people and do all the things that humans do when they relax, such as playing musical instruments, bathing, cycling, boating and napping. This alliterative alphabet book sets about documenting their fun and games in 26 sets of pages, one for each letter of the alphabet, with the text facing a related illustration.

    Barbara Klunder is an illustrator who is gifted in a variety of art genres. She has spent most of her time in the past twenty years on the Toronto Island and is a teacher of drawing and painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She is committed to environmental issues, and her previous book, Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times, reflects this interest.

     Her latest book, Animals' Day, has several positive elements. The capable watercolour and gouache illustrations are bright, amusing and entertaining, and they would definitely appeal to preschoolers, showing as they do animals, birds and insects up to all sorts of improbable human antics. The amusing fantasy of animals imitating people is original, the book has a good introduction and the setting of the Toronto Island is an unusual one in children's literature.

Despite these sterling qualities, it is doubtful if the format and rather awkward alliterative text will appeal to young children. And while picture books for older readers are an increasingly popular genre, they usually deal with more complex themes than the subject matter of this volume.

     There are elements of the text that jar on readers of any age. The storyline is self-conscious and stilted, and the interjection of the author's environmental observations e.g. "unwanted Island airport", "gas guzzling cars" and coy references to obviously known Island residents, such as the "Island's quality quilter" and the "hip hairdresser," are inappropriate in this context.

     As the book stands, I feel it is more suitable for older children aged between 8-11. I would recommend it for purchase in libraries in the Greater Toronto Area and as an additional purchase in other school and public libraries.

Recommended with reservations.

Aileen Wortley, a retired librarian, lives in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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